- Success not based on luck takes effort.
- We often distract ourselves from success because of 3 factors – expectations, entitlements and emotions.
- Learn how they affect you and what you can do to avoid becoming distracted – and instead get on with generating success.
When we want to achieve something, we can derail our own success by being easily distracted. We can often find that whilst we know what needs to be done to achieve success…we simply find ways to distract ourselves from doing it.
Humans like novelty and dislike discomfort. These two factors ensure that we often get ‘distracted’ from the things that matter to achieving success as or focus shifts. Our attention is drawn to novelty whilst we actively seek ways to avoid discomfort, both of which may draw our attention and effort towards things that have no positive impact on what we want to achieve. The opposite is to keep a clear focus on doing what needs to be done to generate positive outcomes regardless of how uncomfortable or boring it is. Noticing and avoiding distraction can empower your strategies and help you achieve your goals.
The distractors to success:
When we discount success generated through luck, then to achieve valuable outcomes we need to apply effort and focus on doing the menial things that make the outcomes possible. We may need to do uninspiring, boring or even unpleasant things to create the outcome that we seek. When things seem challenging it is easy to allow distractions to creep into our thinking and approach to achievement.
Instead of focusing on ‘what do I need to do to generate the best chance of success?’– including those things we don’t like or agree with – it is easy to get drawn away into the three distractions, which are:
Expectations are future predictions about how things will go. Anxious thoughts are a powerful example of expectations. As we allow ourselves to pay attention (and even ruminate) upon anxieties we have about what might happen, it stops us focusing on what we can do now to move forward. Other expectations that we set ourselves and use as distractions include the need to be ‘perfect’, our comparative anxiety about what we think others would consider about what we are doing or expectations of the capability of ourselves and others. These are all powerful distractors from getting things done.
Perfection is a classic case – “if I cannot do it perfectly I won’t do it at all”. The expectation that you can do it perfectly becomes a distractor from doing anything at all. Instead of deciding on a possible action, a perfectionist will continuously second guess decisions and distort assessments of outcomes against some mythical ‘perfect’ state. (In such a case, it can be useful to explore how you decided what ‘perfect’ was, if it could be achieved by anyone at all, and if you have the skills and resources to actually do it?).
Seeking perfection distracts the person from getting on with something, and often leads to procrastination and avoidance.
Entitlements are those deep seated beliefs about what you ‘deserve’. This sets expectation, but also works to create resentment and frustration that gets in the way on doing what needs to be done. Entitlements derive from old patterned beliefs, and are particularly pervasive. The belief that you are entitled to be treated ‘fairly’, that you deserve ‘recognition’, ‘to be loved’, or even ‘to be the next to be promoted’ creates massive distractions from doing what would need to be done to earn such outcomes.
‘Class privilege’ is an example of how someone of a particular group in society can believe that they deserve certain advantages, rather than encouraging them to do the work to earn what these advantages would offer. Feeling entitled often leads to anger, resentment, disappointment and focus on what others have or get that you do not – all acting as powerful distractors from taking valued actions.
Focusing on the ‘entitlement’ rather than the actions that would create the same outcome is a massive distractor for many people. What you think you deserve can cloud your view of what are prepared to do to generate valued outcomes.
Emotions are the third and possibly the most common distractor. Rather than act, we allow ourselves to be distracted by how we ‘feel’ about the action or the outcome. As we allow ourselves to become deeply engaged with our emotions, we forget that we can act regardless how we feel – and that the emotions we feel will distract us from taking actions if we let them.
If we ‘feel’ bored, sad, upset, scared, angry, despondent or that the task is ‘too hard’, we have two options: we can either allow the emotion to modify (even stop) what what we do; or we can recognise the feeling and simply act anyway. One leads us forward (action taking) and the other keeps us stuck and distracted.
Emotions are powerful distractors – they colour our judgement and focus and often do not help us create anything of value.
A great example of how feelings get in the way is when the action (or the thought of the action) generates discomfort. We can often have a difficult decision and not like either option. We can look ahead and not like the effort we will have to put in, or we can imagine how others might think of us as we take that action or achieve an outcome. In each case, the discomfort that is generated encourages us into avoidance and procrastination. We might actively seek out distractions so we don’t have to experience the discomfort that we generate. The other option is to face into the discomfort and just take an action anyway.
Being distracted is easy. Finding excuses is easy. But what is valuable is not always easy, and what is easy is not always valuable.
What you can do:
When you find yourself excuse making, building narratives from expectations and entitlements or being drawn in to emotion that distract you from valuable action taking, it is time to hold the stories to account. Take some time to explore the situation and ask:
- What is my expectation here? (For example, you might have a belief that you have to “do it perfectly”)
- What is my entitlement here and what do I deserve? (for example you might think that “It’s not fair, and it should be”)
- What emotion am I experiencing and how is it impacting my decisions or action taking? (For example, “I feel massive discomfort even thinking about the task ahead“)
Next, define how your distractor is impacting what you do (For example, a perfectionist will often be thinking “Unless it is perfect, I wont take action”. Your entitlement might encourage a belief that “I deserve it, I don’t need to do anything to get it” encouraging you away from acting)
When this is clear, you can now test if the belief is true – or even reasonable. Do you deserve it? Can you do it perfectly? If you want the outcome are you better acting or ruminating on your anxiety?
Then ask yourself: “regardless of all of that, what is the most valuable action I can choose and attempt right now”
How are you allowing yourself to be distracted from your own success?
Which distractor is the most common for you?
What can you do differently to distract yourself from the distractors – and get back on track to success?
Removing the 3 distractions open the door for action, and only from action comes created outcomes – some of which may be valuable to you.
Please contact me directly if this has raised any issues for you, or you want to work through your distractors and generate a whole new level of success.